Hindsight is 2020 vision: a characterisation of the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic
2 years ago
Hindsight is 2020 vision: a characterisation of the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic

A new article by the Università della Svizzera italiana (USI) has been launched in BMC Public Health: "Hindsight is 2020 vision: a characterisation of the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic"<br>



Background:The global impact of COVID-19 and the country-specific responses to the pandemic provide an unparalleled opportunity to learn about different patterns of the outbreak and interventions. We model the global pattern of reported COVID-19 cases during the primary response period, with the aim of learning from the past to prepare for the future.

Methods: Using Bayesian methods, we analyse the response to the COVID-19 outbreak for 158 countries for the period 22 January to 9 June 2020. This encompasses the period in which many countries imposed a variety of response measures and initial relaxation strategies. Instead of modelling specific intervention types and timings for each country explicitly, we adopt a stochastic epidemiological model including a feedback mechanism on virus transmission to capture complex nonlinear dynamics arising from continuous changes in community behaviour in response to rising case numbers. We analyse the overall effect of interventions and community responses across diverse regions. This approach mitigates explicit consideration of issues such as period of infectivity and public adherence to government restrictions.

Results: Countries with the largest cumulative case tallies are characterised by a delayed response, whereas countries that avoid substantial community transmission during the period of study responded quickly. Countries that recovered rapidly also have a higher case identification rate and small numbers of undocumented community transmission at the early stages of the outbreak. We also demonstrate that uncertainty in numbers of undocumented infections dramatically impacts the risk of multiple waves. Our approach is also effective at pre-empting potential flare-ups.

Conclusions: We demonstrate the utility of modelling to interpret community behaviour in the early epidemic stages. Two lessons learnt that are important for the future are: i) countries that imposed strict containment measures early in the epidemic fared better with respect to numbers of reported cases; and ii) broader testing is required early in the epidemic to understand the magnitude of undocumented infections and recover rapidly. We conclude that clear patterns of containment are essential prior to relaxation of restrictions and show that modelling can provide insights to this end.


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